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Methanol test

Definition

Methanol is a toxic type of alcohol used for industrial and automotive purposes. It is not found in alcoholic beverages. It is sometimes called "wood alcohol."

A test can be done to measure the amount of methanol in your blood.

See also: Methanol poisoning

How the test is performed

A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture

How to prepare for the test

No special preparation is necessary.

How the test will feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the test is performed

This test is done to see if you have methanol in your body. You should not drink methanol. However, some people accidentally drink methanol, or drink it on purpose as a substitute for grain alcohol (ethanol).

Methanol is extremely poisonous. As little as 2 tablespoons can be deadly to a child. About 2 to 8 ounces can be deadly for an adult. Methanol poisoning mainly affects the gastrointestinal, nervous, and ophthalmological (eye) systems.

Normal Values

No presence of methanol is normal.

What abnormal results mean

No amount of methanol is normally found in the body. Its presence indicates possible poisoning.

What the risks are

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

References

 

Ford MD. Acute poisoning. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds.Cecil Medicine. 24th ed.Philadelphia,PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 110.


Review Date: 11/17/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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